The advertisement on the left is a part of a campaign by the Bharatiya Janata Party for the Uttar Pradesh elections 2017, the results of which are to be declared in March. The ad reads, “sampradayik tanav se hone wale palayan ko rokne ke liye, anti-palayan vibhag ka gathan. Kamal ka button dabaye, Bhajpa ko vijayi banaye.” (To prevent the exodus happening due to communal tension, an anti-exodus division will be set up. Press the button on which the lotus rests, and make Bharatiya Janata Party the winner.)
Now, which exodus are they talking about? Which community are they referring to? It’s not been mentioned in the advertisement.
However, in June 2016, Hukum Singh, a Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Kairana and an accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots, had claimed that there had been a mass exodus of people belonging to the Hindu community. He had released a list of 346 families from the town of Kairana, Shamli district in Uttar Pradesh, claiming that they were forced to evacuate due to communal tensions. It was projected as a site of communal violence where Hindus were the victims and Muslims the aggressors.
After his claims, reports in the Times of India and Indian Express seemed to suggest that such an exodus had never taken place. The Indian Express reported that there were discrepancies in the list put forward by Hukum Singh. It included people who had died and ones who had left more than 10 years ago.
Interestingly, Hukum Singh later took a u-turn and said that the issue was of law and order and not that of communalism. He also released another list, of 63 Hindu families, from the city of Kandhla, which is also located in Shamli district. The title had the word ‘Hindu’ missing, this time around. The title of the Kairana list was, ‘Kairana se palayan karne wale Hindu pariwaron ki soochi‘ (List of Hindu families which migrated from Kairana). For the Kandhla list, it was, ‘Kandhla se palayan karne wale pariwaron ki soochi‘ (List of families which migrated from Kandhla). According to the Indian Express, there were discrepancies in this list as well. An individual who was mentioned in the Kairana list had actually died five years before the list was released.
What makes it possible for some people to polarise the electorate is that 14 camps were reportedly opened in Kairana during the Muzaffarnagar riots, where over 50, 000 people were displaced and at least 48 people killed.
During this time, Amit Shah, the President of the Bharatiya Janata had raised the issue of Kairana in a rally in Allahabad.
The National Human Rights Commission released a report on the alleged ‘Hindu’ exodus in Kairana in September 2016. It did say that many witnesses claimed that young men from the Muslim community would pass lewd remarks against women belonging to the Hindu community. It also stated, “some of the displaced persons also verified that it was one of the reasons for their migration from Kairana Town.”
The report also mentioned, “most of the witnesses examined and victims feel that the rehabilitation in 2013 (of Muzaffarnagar riots survivors) has permanently changed the social situation in Kairana town and has led to further deterioration of law and order situation.”
Yet, the same report also stated, “most of the witnesses stated that many families migrated due to threats pertaining to increase in crime and deterioration of law and order situation.”
However, the NHRC report had also come under a lot of criticism for being biased and prejudiced against the Muslim community by activists and riot survivors. Two members of the National Commission for Minorities also criticised the report.
This is a very sensitive issue and has the potential to create communal disharmony. In such cases, with so many accounts pointing out that a ‘Hindu’ exodus has not taken place, shouldn’t BJP exercise some restraint and not politicise this issue along communal lines?
Bharatiya Janata Party had done something very similar during the Bihar elections in 2015. Narendra Modi had said at a rally that the grand alliance, led by Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar planned to reduce the quotas for OBCs, STs and SCs to 5% and give it to people from a ‘particular community’. Neither Lalu nor Nitish had given any such indication. BJP had also released advertisements, claiming the same. The posters were banned by the Election Commission. Unfortunately for the BJP, they had lost the Bihar elections by a huge margin. Will something similar happen in Uttar Pradesh?